Salt Lake bustles with activity in the summer. While nearby mountains are ablaze with high-altitude natural wonders, the city comes alive with sports, festivals, parades, farmer’s markets, outdoor concerts, and lively restaurant patios. 

Families, in particular, revel in Salt Lake’s outdoorsy-meets-urbanite lifestyle. With the city’s unparalleled access to nature, parents with busy-bee toddlers or tough-to-please teens get the best of two worlds—experiencing it themselves and, as a bonus, experiencing it through the eyes of a child. The cherry on top? Less time in the car equals more time for connecting. 

Even better are the money-saving experience passes that abound for families exploring Salt Lake. Customize your outings with guided tours and discount passes to Salt Lake's most popular places. With just a few clicks, parents ensure quick access and wallet-friendly prices to the best activities. 

During the school break, why not build a new set of emotional and intellectual benchmarks? How exactly? Well, here are some family-friendly activities only Salt Lake offers that’ll do just that.

Ensign Peak Overlooking Salt Lake

1. Hike or Mountain Bike Minutes from Downtown

Look out any downtown hotel window and you’ll see foothills and mountains cocooning the Salt Lake Valley. Those northern foothills host the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which is easily accessed from Memory Grove Park —a mere mile from the city’s center—and City Creek Canyon. Local trail runners, dog walkers, hikers, and mountain biking enthusiasts revere the City Creek Trail and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, and you will, too. Families also adore the Ensign Peak Trail for its short distance and epic valley views. 

Family-friendly fare at Squatters Pub Brewery

2. Eat With the Locals at a Downtown Restaurant or Brewery

‘Tis the season when hungry diners flock to outdoor patios. With so many family-friendly, locally owned restaurants in Salt Lake, it’s easy to find a spot to feed those hungry tummies. Find a trendy new hot spot, nearby coffee shop,  food truck or brewery.


Animal Encounters at Hogle Zoo

3. Explore a Campus of Curiosity — 5 Experiences in a 6-Mile Radius

Consider it summer camp for kids and parents. A short drive or Trax light rail ride from downtown leads you to the city’s eastern foothills, where you can explore Utah wildlife, botany, geography, art, and pioneer heritage. The Salt Lake Downtown Discovery Pass and the Salt Lake Connect Attractions Pass offer discounts for these experiences.

This is the Place Heritage Park lets kids pan for gold, ride ponies, ride a train, tour the Native American Village, cool off at the Irrigation Station and meet leatherworkers, woodworkers and blacksmiths while they work.

Sitting just across the street, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is an easy walk from the This is the Place. Let the kids run along the paths—while you enjoy a leisurely stroll—from the African Savanna to the Rhino Encounter to Rocky Shores (hello, polar bears!) or the Asian Highlands.

Natural History Museum

The Intermountain West’s largest botanical garden, Red Butte Gardens, shows off plant collections and themed gardens. The garden also hosts a summer camp series and a world-class concert summer concert series.  

Next door to Red Butte, find the Natural History Museum of Utah at the Rio Tinto Center. It houses 163,000 square feet of breathtaking exhibitions—think fossils, life-size dinosaur skeletons and interactive traveling exhibits—inside a LEED Gold-certified architectural achievement. 

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah hosts a collection of contemporary art and ancient objects, as well as traveling exhibitions, panel discussions, art-making classes and a retail boutique. 

High-ropes Course at Utah Olympic Park, included in the Connect Attractions Pass

4. Experience the Utah Olympics Legacy

Salt Lake is one of the few Olympic cities worldwide that continues to operate year-round. Since we hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, the park has been open for Olympic hopefuls to train for ski jumping, bobsledding, skeleton, freestyle, curling and speed skating competitions. It’s open to the public, too. Visit the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns or the Utah Olympic Park in Park City

Heading to Park City? Buy a Salt Lake Connect Attractions Pass and be sure to catch the ever-popular Flying Ace All-Stars Freestyle Show, where freestyle skiers flip and trick high in the air before landing in a massive pool.

Hiking in Little Cottonwood Canyon

5. Take Your Pick of 4 Nearby Mountain Resorts

You may have heard of them: Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude. Yes, they’re famous for their skiing, but in the summer, each resort transforms into a summer wonderland of chairlift rides, hiking, mountain biking, live music, food festivals, disc golf and more. You can reach the mouths of Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon in just under 20 minutes from downtown. 

Sunset and Real Salt Lake

6. Get Tickets to a Game…And a Rodeo

Salt Lake has a unique lineup of summer pro sports. Take to the pitch and cheer on Real Salt Lake, Real Monarchs or Utah Royals FC. Sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a Salt Lake Bees game. Hit up a rodeo, hear the rumble of Utah Motorsports, or feel the rugby rush while cheering on the Utah Warriors.

Bison on Antelope Island

7. Visit the Closest-to-a-City International Dark Sky Park

Whether you consider your family astro-tourists or not, everyone can feel the magical sensation of seeing so many stars in the night sky. Antelope Island State Park got its Dark Sky certification in recent years and ever since, families can start the day with a Great Salt Lake tour and finish it with nature’s own firework show: a vast black sky filled with gleaming stars. 

Only interested in a daytime excursion? The Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island 1-Day Tour shuttles guests to and from their hotel and gives insightful details about the area's unique wildlife and ecology. 

Interactive Art at Utah Arts Festival

8. Enjoy a Salt Lake-Only Summer Festival

No doubt, it’s festival season here in Salt Lake, and, lucky for parents, they’re all family-friendly and oh, so fun. Fan-favorite events include Pioneer Day and The Days of ‘47 Parade, Utah Pride Festival and Parade, and Utah Arts Festival

While our annual events are always celebration-worthy, the tiny-but-mighty events—community events, cultural celebrations, book signings, art openings, comedy tours and live music—showcase the diversity of Salt Lake arts and culture. Throw your vacation dates into this handy events page and voila, you’ll find a treasure trove of happenings.

Concert at Red Butte Garden

9. Share an Outdoor Concert, Musical or Play With the Family

Salt Lake summer evenings are lovely, especially when sitting under the stars and taking in a live performance. Live performances come alive at Red Butte Garden, Utah First Credit Union Amphitheater, Sandy City Amphitheater and Draper Amphitheater. 

FRIENDLY EDITOR’S NOTE: It may go without saying, but we love our visitors to get back to their hotels safe and happy. Salt Lake City temperatures climb past 90 in July and August. Whatever mode of adventure you choose in our foothills, (1) plan out your route ahead of time and (2) pack plenty of water and sun protection.